Subverting Anthony Hope's Ruritania...
"Heaven doesn't always make the right men
Friedrich (Fritz) von Tarlenheim, c.
by Doc M
Cultural Attaché to the Ruritanian Opposition in
As an old-time pinko-subversive, Yours Truly was always rather
sceptical of the wisdom and morality, in The
Prisoner of Zenda, of propping up a brattish absolute
monarch in a repressive autocracy, while his younger half-brother,
widely regarded as the champion of the common people, the only hope
of Strelsauer Altstadt's slum-dwellers, was depicted as a villain...!!! 19C Ruritania was not a country you'd
really want to visit, let alone live in: the capital's
police-chief reported to the King daily with lists of people under
surveillance; the Chancellor was responsible to the King directly and
could be dismissed by him at will. It was even more autocratic than
Bismarck's Germany or the Habsburg Dual Monarchy of the time.
(Internal dating evidence in the texts suggests a setting in the
mid-1870s: Fritz von Tarlenheim's youngest son was 10 in the
framing scenes around Rupert of
Hentzau, written in 1895 and published in 1898.) Seeing
how Rudolf V turned out after 3 years in Rupert of Hentzau (im-maturing from spoilt, selfish playboy to, erm, spoilt,
selfish paranoiac) only reinforces the reader's lingering suspicion
that the Duke could not have been much worse... As our good
friend Nikki has written on the
Michael was definitely an intriguing character. I would
have liked to see more of him, even in the book. He seemed to have
more of a clue than most of the morons around him. If I had to
pick between him and Rudolf, it would not have been a difficult
Well said, that woman!
So the Ruritanian
Resistance was founded
for anyone who fancies being a political subversive in a fictional
bit of Mitteleuropa which is for ever late 19C. (After all, it's
easier to be optimistic in a fictional universe than in the real
world...) There are now several of us, on at least 2 continents, and
we even have the T-shirts to prove it!
ONE OF THE INFLAMMATORY RURITANIAN T-SHIRT
(the other uses the font displayed in the page
As first-person narratives, the original novels are open to
interrogation. There is a good deal of textual evidence to support
querying their political morality (as a Liberal and ironist, perhaps some of Hope's ambiguity was intended?).